We get at the end of 2017 with the feeling that this year went even quicker than the others.
This is a time to make balances, for assessing how much progress we made, to establish how much we still have to do. It is indeed the first New Year we’ll spend in the legality, aware of the fact that the times of the armed struggle are left behind.
For decades we celebrate New Year in the guerrilla camps, far from our families, submerged in the depth of the jungle. In these times we were anxiously waiting for the traditional message by our National Secretariat, the words by our commander in chief, the general Christmas and New Year celebration. Every one of us had saved some clothes to show on these days.
November torrential rains faded off considerably until disappearing during Christmas and New Year. But the weather played its tricks on us. Once, in 1987, in the jungle of Perija, the powerful wind blowing teared down a huge tree that fell on top of two comrades sleeping in their “caleta”. The others managed to get them out and took them in the amaca to the nearest road.
Other times unstopping violent rains forced us to wait for the midnight under the black plastic tent of the class. In the Magdalena Medio, thunders and rays were so noisy that the sound system we got, as always with much trouble, barely managed to transmit music we could hear. It just seemed a far away noise.
Later on it was raining bombs and not water. The reconnaissance planes of the enemy were flying above us to detect the smallest of lights or any sign of human presence, to pass on the coordinates to the war planes that appeared suddenly and dropped their deadly cargo.
At that point the celebration was moved to daytime. It begun at seven in the morning and ended at four in the afternoon. Each company, in turns, would hold its celebration, while the others stayed patrolling and guarding in case the enemy showed up.
It often occurred that while a company was happily dancing, the others were fighting against the army, four or five kilometres away.
Manuel Marulanda Vélez introduced strict rules to be observed under any circumstances. In the guerrilla there was no party without previously have a political event. The units prepared theater works, choirs, songs, poems. Speeches were made in which was never missing a reference to the Cuban revolution. The day menù had to be prepared rigorously.
Some groups prepared tamales, the cow, the pork and cook the meat. The most sober were in charge of deliver the drinks. Music had to be chosen in advance so to meet the taste of everybody. The midnight hugs were always particularly emotional.
Words were always said to remember the comrades in prison, the wounded, those who had died at the hands of the enemy, the ill recovering in the city. Then we were celebrating having arrived alive at this date, without thinking on the possibility of not being celebrating next year, the comrades saying words to remember us. It did not matter. We were absolutely happy.
We were totally convinced not just of the rightness of our fight, but also of the purity of our collective life. Nobody there was moved by personal interest, it was totally inconceivable to do some miserable action. The guerrilla family represented the noblest ideals. The commitment with the people and the other comrades was sacred.
Outside of the room, were left resting our rifles, pistols, mortars, grenades, acmetralladoras, jealously guarded by the guards turning each other every 30 minutes with others coming from the party. Never in all those years of guerrilla celebrations have I witnessed a case where someone would have taken the arms to attack the other.
I don’t believe there is any other human group in which respect and solidarity among its members got to the level we lived in the FARC. There are those who in bad faith are committed to find the rotten among our ranks, calling on hate, resentment, injected in traitors and deserters. There is no human work that has no detractors.
Those who have known us directly always believed in us. Now a lot more people will get to know us. In this resides our strength. Next year this will be seen with clarity.